ALAMOSA COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — Citing safety risk to personnel, Alamosa Volunteer Search And Rescue (AVSAR) leadership announced the suspension of search operations after four days of scouring the area around Blanca Peak to find a missing hiker.
Durango resident Vaughn Fetzer, 57, was last heard from Sept. 18. He is believed to have attempted a summit of the 14,344-foot mountain by himself.
Thursday, AVSAR “made the very difficult decision” to take search teams out of the field until new information about Vaughn’s disappearance is obtained.
“AVSAR conducted this mission up to the edge of our acceptable level of risk,” the agency stated on a Facebook post. “That specific environment has significant inherent risk due to the hazardous terrain including steep loose terrain and exposure. We took calculated risks and deployed our team with intentionality to cover that terrain thoroughly to the best of our ability and with a margin of safety. Our search area included all probable routes each of which have significant risk of injury or death.”
One searcher was injured by falling rock during the effort. He was one of three team members searching a couloir along the Gash Ridge when a dislodged slab of rock fell onto his right leg. The unidentified searcher was lifted out by helicopter and taken to a hospital. No further information about his condition was provided.
“We must prioritize the safety of all teams and pushing into that terrain any further would require a level of risk that is beyond what we believe is reasonable considering the circumstances,” AVSAR continued.
Vaughn is six feet tall, weighs 180 pounds, and has brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about his outing, particularly anyone who may have been on the mountain and saw Vaughn on the 18th, is asked to contact the State Patrol Dispatch Center at (719) 589-5807.
During the search, a helicopter from the Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control’s Cañon City Helitak supported ground crews from Custer County Search And Rescue, Western Mountain Rescue Team, Colorado Search and Rescue Association, and the Alamosa County Sheriff’s Office.